Leading the Way in African Pharmaceutical Sciences to Produce 21st Century Medicines

Leading the Way in African Pharmaceutical Sciences to Produce 21st Century Medicines

The NRF congratulates Professor Yahya Choonara (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3889-1529) on his winning the 2022 FIP Distinguished Pharmaceutical Science Award from the Bureau of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) (https://www.fip.org/who-we-are) in recognition of his outstanding research and significant contributions to the pharmaceutical sciences globally.

The award was presented to Prof Choonara at the 80th FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences held recently in Seville, Spain. The FIP represents over four million pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists around the world.

As an advocate of pharmaceutical innovation, Prof Choonara’s persistent leadership in the pharmaceutical sciences in Africa is making an impact on global health and has placed him at the forefront of producing advanced life-saving 21st century medicines for infectious, hereditary and lifestyle diseases.

He leads the University of Witwatersrand’s Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform (WADDP) Research Unit (https://www.wits.ac.za/waddp), a flagship of Wits University. The unit is Africa’s first, largest and only entity in the domain contributing to the design of novel targeted drug (and/or bioactive) delivery systems, nanomedicine, functional biomaterials and regenerative medicines. Drug delivery science is the method and process of formulating a newly discovered (or existing) drug (or bioactive) to achieve a better therapeutic effect in the human body, i.e. improved bioavailability.

The development of brand new drug molecules that form part of sophisticated drug discovery programs is relatively expensive, time consuming and comes with a very high risk of failure, especially for LMICs. Hence, improving the safety of the efficacy ratio of promising new and existing drugs by using novel methods of drug delivery can enhance, individualise and revolutionise drug therapy. This is where innovations at the WADDP are changing conformist thinking and being pursued vigorously by Prof Choonara’s scientific team, leading to many breakthroughs.

As a Personal Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, a Tier 1 South African National Research Foundation (NRF) Chair in Pharmaceutical Biomaterials and Polymer-Engineered Drug Delivery Technologies, he holds the largest pharmaceutical product patent portfolio (43 in total) aimed at providing patient-centric drug therapies for unmet therapeutic needs including special populations, e.g. neuroscience, oncology, infectious diseases, paediatrics, women and child health. His inventions include a WaferMat (the world’s fastest dissolving matrix), a VagiTab, nanomedicine and BioInspired NeuroTherapeutics.

He is also the first South African pharmaceutical scientist and pharmacist to receive both the FIP Award and South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Top Intellectual Property (IP) Creator Award, one of the country’s highest awards for distinguished contributions to innovation.

As an African pharmaceutical scientist, he is also very passionate about developing the next generation of pharmaceutical scientists for South Africa and the continent. He has graduated more than 110 postgraduates and mentored more than 18 postdoctoral fellows from nine countries. He currently mentors several emerging pharmaceutical scientists pursuing careers in pharmaceutical product development (including nanomedicine) at various academic institutions throughout Africa. In relation to this, he was invited to co-author two UNESCO UniTWIN inaugural reports – A Needs-Based Pharmaceutical Sciences Education in Africa and Addressing Equitable, Inclusive and Quality Pharmaceutical Science Education.

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